After 37-plus years, Rex and Penny Berneking are winding down their Berneking Concrete Homes business to focus on family, their rentals and a fixer upper home. “We’re thankful to the community that supported us,” Rex said. “Honesty is our only policy. I give you the best quality I can because concrete is permanent. We want to get it right the first time.” Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

After 37-plus years, Rex and Penny Berneking are winding down their Berneking Concrete Homes business to focus on family, their rentals and a fixer upper home. “We’re thankful to the community that supported us,” Rex said. “Honesty is our only policy. I give you the best quality I can because concrete is permanent. We want to get it right the first time.” Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Berneking Concrete Homes set retirement after 37-plus years

Industry colleagues sad to see couple call it a career

It’s likely you’ve seen or experienced Rex Berneking’s solid craftsmanship, from Wilder Auto Center’s show floors to concrete work at Dungeness Community Church, King’s Way and Independent Bible Church. Or, at Railroad Bridge Park, Lake Crescent and many, many other places.

After nearly 40 years, Rex, 69, and his wife Penny, 66, are winding down their business Berneking Concrete Homes.

“We’re ready, but we’re not retiring people,” Penny said.

As “workaholics,” Rex said they have “a hard time quitting things.”

The pair are stopping work in the concrete business while maintaining their Berneking Rentals in Sequim and Port Angeles and taking on a fixer-upper home.

The couple said they’ve employed more than 200 people in their tenure — including their five sons.

“We’re thankful to the community that supported us,” Rex said. “Honesty is our only policy. I give you the best quality I can because concrete is permanent. We want to get it right the first time.”

Penny said God has “blessed us over and over” and that the same day of the interview for this story, her calendar quoted Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

“We’ve been able to support a lot of families over time and given them a good wage,” Rex said.

Concrete

Berneking Concrete, now Berneking Concrete Homes, started with “a bucket of tools, a ratty pickup and a forgiving wife,” Rex said.

Their oldest son Daniel was 3 then, and Penny was unknowingly pregnant when they started the new venture. A housing slump was in play, too, Rex said.

But he said he beat the bushes, reaching out all over for work.

“If I saw a house being built, I went up and asked if they needed a project done,” he said.

One of his first projects was a retaining wall at Lake Sutherland, a job that led to growing relationships with multiple contractors and projects for businesses and residents like sidewalks, driveways and more.

Scott Schwagler, owner of J&J Construction, said their working relationship started near Berneking Concrete’s beginnings.

“He’s a great man with a great family,” he said. “We’re definitely going to miss them.”

For the projects they partnered, Schwagler said Berneking and his small team were “awesome, top notch.”

Schwagler said Berneking is “someone who thinks about a project as a whole, not just what he was doing but what other trades were doing too.

“He is a good team member. We’re going to miss having him around. Wish him and penny the best and many great years of retirement.”

Karl Allen of Allen Roofing said he began working with Berneking when he called him out for a concrete job at his home.

“He was great,” Allen said. “He’s done good work and been around a long time. He’s definitely been a good guy.”

Berneking Concrete Homes has worked with more than 200 employees in its 37-plus years, including, from top left, Mark Berneking, Sandro Bellinger, Daniel Berneking, front left, Peter Gish, James Berneking and owner Rex Berneking. Submitted photo

Berneking Concrete Homes has worked with more than 200 employees in its 37-plus years, including, from top left, Mark Berneking, Sandro Bellinger, Daniel Berneking, front left, Peter Gish, James Berneking and owner Rex Berneking. Submitted photo

In 2002, Rex branched into concrete homes with insulated concrete forms (ICF) that are exterior walls using expanded polystyrene forms filled with high thermal mass concrete. He said ICF homes help lower energy costs and outside noise, and are more earthquake resistant than wood-built homes.

He installed 36 ICF structures for homes between Sequim and Port Angeles and served as general contractor for one of them in Discovery Bay.

“It was a real niche for us,” Rex said.

Taking shape

Rex Berneking (pronounce Bernie-King), is a native Kansan who majored in math and minored in biology from Fort Hays University. He needed work after college and took up a job with a local concrete company, he said.

A friend of his eventually started his own concrete business, so Rex left to work for him.

“I enjoyed working with them. That was back in my party mode; my bosses were, too,” he said.

Brothers Daniel, left, and Sam, right, stand with their dad Rex Berneking at a concrete project they worked on together. Over the years, Rex has employed all of his sons for his Berneking Concrete Homes. Submitted photo

Brothers Daniel, left, and Sam, right, stand with their dad Rex Berneking at a concrete project they worked on together. Over the years, Rex has employed all of his sons for his Berneking Concrete Homes. Submitted photo

On a trip to visit some friends attending the University of Washington in 1977, he discovered the Olympic Peninsula and spent some time cycling (Rex was an avid rider) and hiking in the area.

That August he went back to Kansas for his sister’s wedding, determined he’d come back to Seattle. After a few dead ends finding a place to live, he came to Port Angeles to live with his great-uncle.

The day he arrived, he sought a job from a concrete contractor, Cliff Brehan, and was hired the same day.

About four years later, Rex started his own business.

Rex met Penny, of Salem, Ore., through his sister Ruth, shortly after moving to the area.

A dramatic experience brought them together sooner than expected, Penny said, as on a date Rex’s truck flipped and they got acquainted on the walk for help.

Upon starting out, Rex Berneking had this caricature done for his business in the late 1970s. Submitted photo

Upon starting out, Rex Berneking had this caricature done for his business in the late 1970s. Submitted photo

They met in April 1978 and married that June. The couple has eight children and 10 grandchildren.

Penny was their first employee as a bookkeeper, and Daniel was their longest-tenured staffer.

“It’s been a very family-oriented business,” Penny said.

Looking ahead, the Bernekings plan to travel more, particularly to their children in California and Canada, and go hiking more often.

More in Business

x
Sequim educator seeks better dialog through Speaking Justice

Miriame Cherbib traces her passion for teaching others to find their voice… Continue reading

tsr
Whats Happening at the Market: Maximize your food assistance dollars

The Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market makes it a top priority to… Continue reading

More jobs added to state payrolls in May

Washington state’s economy added 8,300 jobs in May and the state’s preliminary… Continue reading

Business news — June 23, 2021

Sequim company picked for Seattle design fest Litehouse Shelters’ Brad Griffith is… Continue reading

Business news — June 16, 2021

Chamber offers monthly luncheons The Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce host monthly luncheons… Continue reading

tsr
What’s Happening at the Market: A passion for nonprofits, pieces of peninsula

Stonewear Art is known to guests of the Sequim Farmers and Artisans… Continue reading

Peninsula jobless rate drops to 7.4 percent

Unemployment fell slightly to 7.4 percent in Clallam and Jefferson counties last… Continue reading

Business news — June 9, 2021

New restaurant, Back Alley Café, opens Guadalupe, Sergio and Nathalie Arreguin have… Continue reading

tsr
What’s Happening at the Market: Smoked salmon chowder, a loving gesture

There’s a new, decadent aroma waiting to greet visitors at the Sequim… Continue reading

Local employers chafe over lack of workers

Employers in Clallam and Jefferson counties are begging for workers, with some… Continue reading

tsr
What’s Happening at the Market: Merging gardening, wellness on the farm

Courtney Thomas of Naive Melody Front Yard Farm is an entrepreneur, gardener… Continue reading